Truck art: Advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan through local art

“Baba, mujhay sona aur chaandi nahin, kitaab aur qalam la kar do” – “Father, don’t bring me silver or gold, bring me a book and a pen.” Messages spreading awareness on girls’ education like this one have been making their way through Kohistan’s steep mountains, narrow valleys and bridges, and into classrooms.

Honouring local art, engaging communities

UNESCO has been using Pakistani ‘truck art’, a unique blend of murals and painted scenes honoring local art and crafts, to raise awareness on girls' education in the Kohistan district in Pakistan. The local community overwhelmingly welcomed the use of this local art form, adopted by the Girls’ Right to Education Programme (GREP), helping to make an impact in favor of girls’ education in local communities.

Over 20 trucks transporting goods and timber along the Karakorum and Indus highways have been painted with colorful portraits and murals advocating for girls’ education, with messages such as “Ilm taaqat hai” (Education is power) and “Ilm roshni hai” (Education is light). It is the first time that such strong, culturally-sensitive advocacy messages on girls’ education have been rendered on trucks. Communities are used to seeing local poetry painted on these vehicles.

Honouring this unique local art has helped transform attitudes in many communities. Parents have realized the importance of education for their daughters. “I was inspired by a quote painted on a truck with a school girl’s picture saying: Knowledge is light, and decided to send my daughter to school to learn,” shared the father of a girl aged six recently admitted to school. More girls are attending school now and getting a chance at an education.

Transforming classrooms

In the classrooms, walls were painted using the ‘truck art’ technique to provide visual representation of lessons and to inspire a more interactive and colorful learning process. According to teachers in the participating schools, girls attending primary schools in the Pattan and Dassu areas look forward to go to school and learn in their newly painted classrooms.

“Our classroom environment looks attractive with all these colors and artwork, and I learn with more interest now,” says Gul Bano, attending grade 3 at the Girls’ Primary School in Dassu. More girls like Gul have been inspired by the local art, which has made classrooms feel safer and friendlier for girls. In a group of 29 primary schools, 13 had their classroom walls painted using ‘truck art’ technique. In these 13 primary schools, girls’ enrolment increased up to 14% while in the 16 primary schools that did not use ‘truck art’, the rate remains unchanged at 10%.

This approach used by the GREP helps preserve the local art developed by rural women and truck artists with the engagement of local schools and students. Not only is the methodology helping to pass on the local craft to future generations, but it is also amplifying important messages on educating girls to the community, and helping to transform girls’ lives through education.

The Girls’ Right to Education Programme is implemented by the UNESCO Islamabad Office for the period 2014-2019, following the signing of the Malala Funds-in-Trust agreement between the Government of Pakistan and UNESCO to “support to national capacity building to realize girls’ right to education in Pakistan”.

The initial major contribution by the Government of Pakistan enabled the creation of the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, which supports marginalized girls to expand their access to a quality education across Africa, Asia and Latin America, with additional contributions from other donors.

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